Hearing with House Antibiotics Workgroup

Abx Workgroup Hearing 1a

The House Environment and Transportation Committee’s Workgroup on Antibiotics held its second set of hearings on antibiotics. Earlier in November, a panel of federal and state government officials and a panel of academics testified before the workgroup of Delegates Lam, O’Donnell, and S. Robinson on the antibiotic resistance crisis, its connection to animal agriculture, and the federal government’s efforts to address the problem.

This second hearing comprised a panel organized by the Farm Bureau – including Kerry Keffaber from Elanco (the animal drug arm of Eli Lilly), Richard Carnavale from the Animal Health Institute (the trade association for the animal drug industry), and Colby Ferguson and Jennifer Debnam of the Farm Bureau.

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working panel included nurses Cara Zalewski and Jill Ciotta from the University of Maryland Medical System, Sophia Maravell from Nick’s Organic Farm, Evi Lowman from Maryland PIRG, and Mae Wu from NRDC.

Abx workgroup hearing 2a

Unlike hearings during the legislative session, this hearing provided greater opportunity for witnesses to provide longer statements (beyond the typical 2 minute limit) and the workgroup to dig into the details with the panels.

The Campaign’s panel provided policy options for the workgroup to consider and underscored why the workgroup should not rely on the federal government to solve this problem (including FDA’s own admission at the last hearing that their efforts would only address maybe 10% of antibiotics used in animal agriculture).

The nurses provided moving testimony about the impact of antibiotic resistant infections on the nurses’ practice. Sophia identified real world steps that they use on Nick’s Organic Farm to avoid using antibiotics that could be scaled up – and made a strong business case for growing Maryland farmers who produce without using antibiotics. And Evi highlighted the tide of businesses that are moving away from meat raised with routine use of antibiotics as well as our large and diverse coalition supporting these efforts.

The workgroup was very engaged for the 2 1/2 hour hearing and asked important questions. Things are looking great for this coming legislative session!

Thanks to all the Campaign members who came out to support the panel – and of course the panel members!

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Pediatricians: Antibiotics in Animal Feed Can Harm Children

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Everyone should check this out: the American Academy of Pediatrics just published a technical report on the “Nontherapeutic Use of Antimicrobial Agents in Animal Agriculture: Implications for Pediatrics.”

The authors – Dr. Jerome Paulson of George Washington University School of Medicine and Dr. Theo Zaoutis of the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine – go into a lot of detail about the problem with antibiotic resistance in livestock. For example,

Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) has been found to acquire tetracycline and methicillin resistance in livestock.28 MRSA has also been found to be prevalent in meat and poultry in the United States; samples from 5 US cities29 demonstrated S. aureus contamination in 77% of turkey samples, 42% of pork samples, 41% of chicken samples, and 37% of beef samples.

And these antibiotic resistant bacteria are leaving the farm and entering our communities through a variety of ways. For example,

…[R]esistance genes identical to those found in swine waste lagoons have been found in groundwater and soil microbes hundreds of meters downstream.

And our smallest ones are most at risk.

In 2013, a total of 19 056 infections, 4200 hospitalizations, and 80 deaths were reported to the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, a CDC surveillance system covering 15% of the US population.48 For most infections, incidence was highest among children younger than 5 years.

Most importantly, the conclusion is that we need to only use antibiotics when medically necessary.

Because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotic agents should be used in food-producing animals only to treat and control infectious diseases and not to promote growth or to prevent disease routinely.

Everyone should take the time to check out the report.